I have some exciting news: I finally have internet at home! Which means that posting no longer involves covert blogging from my desk in the lab (blogging covertly in the sense that all the text was written and photos edited at home and I just had to upload them once connected to the internet – just to reassure my mum that I haven’t been spending all the time at my desk blogging instead of working hard. Far from it. Twitter on the other hand… Kidding! Sort of.). I actually can’t think of a way of smoothly linking my new internet-at-home situation to the rest of this post, so in an attempt to distract you from that, here’s a photo of the Sky Tower, just in case I haven’t posted enough of them recently. It was taken two Sundays ago from the Viaduct Harbour whilst waiting for some of the Volvo Ocean Race competitors to arrive.
As you can see, the weather was rather dismal. Pretty similar to the weather we’ve been having since Monday actually (and due to continue until the end of the week – joy). It wasn’t particularly cold (well, in comparison to Scotland anyway), but it was windy and drizzly and just a bit miserable. So why, you might ask, would I voluntarily go and loiter in the harbour for several hours?
I’ve already given the answer away, but in case you are just skim-reading and missed it: the Volvo Ocean Race, that’s why. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really aware of it before moving to Auckland, so for those of you in the same boat (badum-tschhhhh), it’s a gruelling round-the-world crewed monohull race consisting of 9 legs, which departed from Alicante, Spain in October 2011 and is expected to finish in early July 2012 in Galway, Ireland, covering a total of over 39,000 nautical miles (over 72,000 km). There are six yachts competing this year.
The race’s Auckland stopover was from the 8th to 18th of March 2012, between the 4th and 5th legs of the race, and the Viaduct Harbour was transformed into a Race Village for the duration. Although the boats were expected to arrive on the 8th, most of them only arrived on the 11th on account of bad weather, after spending and exhausting 20 days at sea (!) and sailing well over the expected 5,220 nautical miles (9,667 km) from Sanya in China. I completely missed the news about the delayed arrival of the yachts, so when I wondered down to the Viaduct Harbour on Sunday 11th to go see the boats (that I thought had already arrived), I managed to accidentally time my arrival perfectly with that of the PUMA yacht, which claimed 2nd place for the leg. I wandered around (read: took lots of photos of boats and the Sky Tower when it was vaguely visible) waiting for the arrival of the next two yachts, which were battling it out for 3rd place: Telefónica and CAMPER, the Kiwi team. Sadly CAMPER just missed out by 93 seconds – heart-breaking to watch, but they were enthusiastically welcomed back to NZ by everybody with a foghorn anyway (at least that’s what it sounded like). In true NZ style, the 11-man crew of each yacht was given a Maori welcome, but I couldn’t get any decent photos of that because they had their backs turned to me (so inconsiderate).
The yachts spent a few days hauled out on the docks for maintenance and repairs. I’m always fascinated to see boats out of the water – they always looks so impressive, if a little bizarre. I made a detour via the Viaduct Harbour one evening on my way home from uni to see them – thankfully the weather was much more pleasant. It was definitely pretty awe-inspiring to see these (multi-million dollar) state-of-the-art yachts that are at the forefront of nautical technological advances and design hauled up at such close range.
Each stopover includes an in-port race which counts towards the final results, and a Pro-Am race which doesn’t. I wasn’t able to watch them, but I do know that CAMPER won the in-port race, much to the delight of the nation. I also missed the start of the 5th leg on Sunday 18th (thanks to the time difference I was up until 6am following the Six Nations rugby – let’s not mention the results), which I would have liked to see. The Volvo Ocean Race takes place every four years and the stopovers change, so we’ll see if I ever happen to be in a stopover town when the race is passing through at some point in the future.
The next Volvo Ocean Race stopover is in Itajaí, Brazil, with the yachts expected to arrive on the 4th of April, after sailing at least 6,705 nautical miles (12,418 km), making it the longest leg of the whole race. If you happen to be in Itajaí around then, I’d definitely recommend going to watch the arrival if you can!
Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!